Jamie-Natalie Cross explains how to turn customer complaints into a winning opportunity for your business.
Whether you're a large company or small business, you’re likely to have to deal with a client complaint at some point. It’s not always a reflection on your business approach; if you’re juggling several clients at once the odds are that there will be at least one person who isn’t completely satisfied at any one time.
- Quick thinking: Once you receive a complaint, don’t leave it. Reply to the letter, email, phone call, blog post or tweet as soon as possible, no matter how outrageous you might think it is.
- Observe and take note: Try and be open-minded and understanding about the situation. Write down anything you feel is important and ask questions.
- Make an apology: Regardless of your opinion, offering some form of apology can help. While in some cases it may not be legally advisable to apologise, you can still say ‘I’m sorry you feel that way’, ‘I’m sorry that wasn’t our intention’, or ‘I am sorry for your inconvenience’. This shows your sympathy and may help to calm the situation.
- Be composed: In high stress situations it’s easy to become irritable, but if you allow this to happen you might say something you regret which could have repercussions for the business. If find yourself becoming irritated, suggest that you’ll call the client back and try to take some time out for yourself to calm down.
- Be positive: Try and take an optimistic approach to the problem and focus on what you can do to help rather than what you can’t do.
- Think of your business: Whilst you are dealing with a complaint, show genuine concern. This could help turn the situation into a positive outcome, helping with future business dealings and ultimately aiding your reputation as a company.
- Communicate regularly: Keep your client in the know if the problem cannot be solved straight away. They will only become irritated if they don’t know what’s happening, so stay in contact and explain how you’re tackling the problem.
- Own the problem: If the problem is yours, take responsibility for it solve it as best you can. If it’s not down to you, find out who is involved and make sure you delegate it properly so that all parties know who is responsible for correcting it. As the first point of contact, the client or customer will be looking to you for answers, so make sure you address that straight away and don’t just leave them hanging on.
- Discover the reasons: As well as solving the problem in the here and now, it’s important to understand why the problem happened so it can be avoided in the future. Make a note of lessons learnt and see what you can do to change your processes to ensure it doesn’t happen again.
- Serious complaints: If you’ve tried to resolve the problem without success, it might be time to call in a third party such as a legal adviser who can offer more impartial advice and a new perspective on the problem.
About Dan Martin
Dan Martin has 10 years experience as a journalist writing about entrepreneurs and the issues that affect them.
After three years working as a researcher for Sky News, he joined BusinessEurope.com as a reporter. This was followed by two years working as news editor for Startups.co.uk during which time Dan also contributed to Growing Business magazine. In 2006, he joined Sift Media as business editor before being promoted to editor of BusinessZone.co.uk. He also has responsibility for UK Business Forums, the UK’s most active online forums for small business entrepreneurs. In addition, Dan founded The Pitch, BusinessZone.co.uk's nationwide competition for small business owners. He host the grand finals in 2009 and 2010 in front of an audience of 300.
As well as interviewing many entrepreneurs, Dan has written content for leading business organisations such as the Department for Business, Enterprise and Regulatory Reform, British Chambers of Commerce, Forum of Private Business, Investors in People and Business Link for London. Among the publications that have quoted Dan are The Times, Mail On Sunday, Financial Times, Personnel Today and Bristol Evening Post. His articles have also been published by publications including eGov Monitor, Virgin Express in-flight magazine and Personal Success.
Dan regularly speaks at events about small business and social media issues. Among the events he has presented at are the National Federation of Enterprise Agencies' annual conference, Learning Technologies, Publishing Expo and World of Learning. He has also chaired high profile debates featuring senior representatives from Business Link and the Federation of Small Businesses and Dragons' Den judge James Caan.
Dan was named the 10th most influential political blogger on Twitter by the Independent and won the public award for best B2B tweeter at the Golden Twits 2010. He also organised the Bristol Twestival, part of a global Twitter driven charity initiative, in February 2009 and March 2010. Volunteers from 175 cities around the world organised events using the social network. In total, $350,000 was raised for charity: water in 2009 and $500,000 for Concern in 2010. In Bristol, £1,500 and £5,600 was raised.